Professional competence in pharmaceutical science

As applications for the RPS Faculty roll in, Jeff Mills speaks to Faculty fellow and assessor Peter Hylands about his career so far

It would be difficult to imagine anyone better qualified for the role of assessor for those pharmacists applying for membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Faculty.

Peter Hylands is one of the most high profile and best respected leaders of the profession, both in Great Britain and overseas.

Not only is he the head of virtually everything to do with pharmacy at King’s College London (KCL) — where the pharmacy and pharmacology department is ranked 10th in the world in the QS World University Rankings — he was also the first to join the RPS when it introduced a new membership category for pharmaceutical scientists in 2011.

Speaking as he takes up his new role at the RPS Faculty, Professor Hylands says of his own application:

“I found the process of mapping experience and expertise to competencies to develop my portfolio both enlightening and surprising.

“With the help of the RPS team it was gratifying to see how experiences could relate directly to professional competence. I recommend application to the Faculty to scientist members.”

Many roles

Like those of many senior academics, Professor Hylands’s curriculum vitae is a hefty tome. Even fitting his current job titles at KCL — professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and head of the pharmacy department, the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science and the School of Biomedical Sciences — on a business card must be a challenge.

And then, there are other roles that simply would not fit on a business card, such as being director of the Centre for Natural Medicines Research at KCL, which undertakes joint research and training with institutions in China and elsewhere.

And the list goes on. Professor Hylands is a member of the Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, a member of the British Pharmacopoeia Commission’s Expert Advisory Group on Herbal Medicinal Products and a visiting professor at seven Chinese universities. He is also a member of the RPS Education Advisory Panel, making him well placed to understand and appreciate the needs of other members applying for Faculty membership.

Hands-on experience

What is clear is that Professor Hylands himself is well and truly at the centre of the pharmaceutical science world: at KCL he has complete responsibility for the delivery of the MPharm programme.

“I contribute [to MPharm teaching] in two areas: natural products drug discovery, development and analysis and organic chemistry and stereochemistry. This involves formal lectures, tutorials, practical class supervision and workshops,” says Professor Hylands.

He also oversees the delivery of MSc programmes in pharmaceutical analysis and quality control, biopharmaceuticals and pharmaceutical technology.

At the KCL Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, Professor Hylands is responsible for around 50 principal investigators, 30 postdoctoral workers and more than 100 research students.

New opportunities

In 2011, Professor Hylands was delighted when RPS members voted to allow pharmaceutical scientists to join their ranks, albeit in a slightly restricted way. And he was quick to spot the benefits, both to the organisation and the new potential members.

“I think the RPS was moving out of touch with pharmaceutical scientists, but it is now placing itself right at the centre of things,” he says.

Professor Hylands believes that now, not least since the advent of the Faculty, the RPS has an increasingly strong voice.

“But it needs to ensure that it is heard in the right quarters,” he adds. “This means engaging with royal colleges and others in the healthcare professions for the mutual benefit of all.”

He adds that the RPS is a practical and effective forum for pharmacists and others to share their expertise and express their opinions, and the Faculty is a natural progression of this.

Interested in a career change? Take a look at the latest job listings on PJ Careers (

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 1 February 2014, Vol 292, No 7795;292(7795):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2014.11133554

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